February 25, 2021

A new Amnesty International report states that in late November, soldiers from Eritrea who had been fighting in the Tigray region of Ethiopia entered the city of Axum and "systemically killed hundreds of unarmed civilians" in a "massacre that may amount to a crime against humanity."

Amnesty International interviewed 41 witnesses and survivors for the report. There have long been tensions between the Ethiopian federal government and leaders in Tigray, and in early November, members of the national military began clashing with Tigrayan forces. The Ethiopian government denies that Eritrean soldiers are in the country, contradicting newly appointed members of Tigray's interim government. Eritrea's government has called The Associated Press' earlier reporting of the Axum massacre "outrageous lies."

Witnesses told Amnesty International that on Nov. 19, Ethiopian and Eritrean military forces took control of Axum after waging a large-scale offensive. Over the course of nine days, soldiers executed people and looted stores, hospitals, and homes. After a small group of local militia members attacked their base, the soldiers began opening fire in the streets and raiding homes.

The worst violence occurred on Nov. 28 and 29, before the annual Axum Tsion Mariam festival. Witnesses told Amnesty International unarmed civilians were shot as they ran from soldiers, and others were taken from their homes, lined up, and executed. Most of the victims were men. "All we could see on the streets were dead bodies and people crying," one witness said.

"The evidence is compelling and points to a chilling conclusion," said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's director for East and Southern Africa. "Ethiopian and Eritrean troops carried out multiple war crimes in their offensive to take control of Axum." Muchena added that this "atrocity ranks among the worst documented so far in this conflict. Besides the soaring death toll, Axum's residents were plunged into days of collective trauma and violence, mourning, and mass burials." Since fighting began in the region, Tigray has largely been cut off from the outside world, and Amnesty International is calling on the Ethiopian government to let in humanitarian workers, human rights groups, and journalists. Catherine Garcia

8:58 p.m.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Wednesday said if "something really formal" happens with the Justice Department's investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Republican leadership will "of course react and take action."

The Justice Department is investigating whether Gaetz, 38, had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel out of state with him, allegations that Gaetz denies. Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican leader, told reporters that he hasn't talked to Gaetz about the investigation, but will likely meet with him later this week.

"It's serious things alleged," Scalise told reporters. "Obviously we want to get the facts." Gaetz is a member of the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees, and Scalise said GOP lawmakers who find themselves facing serious charges are removed from their committees.

Last week, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) became the first Republican member of Congress to call on Gaetz to resign, and on Sunday, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 House GOP leader, said the allegations against Gaetz are "sickening." Catherine Garcia

7:06 p.m.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel decided during an emergency meeting on Wednesday that members need more data before voting on whether to resume use of Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

On Tuesday, the CDC and Federal Drug Administration recommended a pause in using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women who received it developed rare brain blood clots. The panel is seeking more information on the clots, including the risk factors and frequency, and will reconvene in the next seven to 10 days.

Dr. Lynn Batha, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health, is a member of the CDC advisory panel, and said she supported extending the pause because "by having more robust information, I think we can be more confident about how we talk about the safety of this vaccine."

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is one of three authorized for use in the United States, and because only one shot is needed and doses can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, it is considered the best option for people who are vulnerable, like those who are incarcerated or homeless. Catherine Garcia

5:33 p.m.

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin's attorneys continued their defense on Wednesday, arguing Chauvin's knee on the neck of George Floyd was not what ultimately killed him, reports The Washington Post.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died in May 2020 after Chauvin placed him under arrest, restraining him with his knee for more than nine minutes. Experts who testified for the prosecution previously said it was the pressure of Chauvin's knee that killed Floyd via a lack of oxygen, but David Fowler, a former Maryland chief medical examiner, testified Wednesday that none of Floyd's injuries were in areas that Chauvin's knee pressed on.

"The amount of force that was applied to Mr. Floyd was less than enough to bruise him," said Fowler, testifying that "all of Floyd's injuries were in areas that Chauvin's knee did not press on." Fowler concluded that Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia due to heart disease, with contributing factors, but criticized the fact that Floyd did not receive immediate medical attention to reverse his cardiac arrest.

Chauvin's lawyers have argued Floyd died as a result of drug use and underlying health issues. Chauvin is facing murder and manslaughter charges.

Read more at The Washington Post. The Week Staff

4:56 p.m.

Mick Jagger and Dave Grohl are trying to rock us out of this pandemic.

The pair released "Eazy Sleazy," a song written and performed by Jagger, with Grohl lending his talents on drums, bass, and guitar. In just shy of four minutes, the song touches on topics like studying pandemic charts, fake applause at football games, TikTok, Zoom, Bill Gates, climate change, aliens, and hope for the future, among others. The chorus chirps the pandemic will soon "be a memory you're trying to remember to forget." But of course, that requires "shooting the vaccine, Bill Gates is in my bloodstream."

Grohl said the collaboration is "beyond a dream come true," and declared it the "song of the summer." Listen below. Taylor Watson

4:56 p.m.

Buddy Valastro gave an update on his hand injury in an appearance on Rachael Ray.

The Cake Boss star is recovering from his fifth hand surgery following a bowling accident last September. Valastro said in the past month his hand has regained mobility and now has about 75 percent of its strength back. "I'm still in physical therapy, and you know, just doing really well," he said. Part of his healing journey was documented on TLC's Buddy Valastro: Road to Recovery.

After the accident, Valastro was worried about his cake decorating career since he severely injured his dominant hand. "I might not ever be able to pipe again, you know? I don't know," he told Entertainment Tonight. But now he's proved to Ray he's still got piping skills — he demonstrated how to decorate a floral cake, just in time for Mother's Day.

While this is great news for Valastro, major fan Gigi Hadid is also no doubt thrilled. After the Cake Boss made her a bagel cake and Zayn Malik a soccer cake, she might already be discussing plans with the baker for little Khai's first birthday. Taylor Watson

4:53 p.m.

During a Wednesday hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler told a judge that surveillance footage recorded on Jan. 7 at the Comfort Inn Ballston in Arlington, Virginia, shows an alleged member of the Oath Keepers carrying what appeared to be rifle cases, BuzzFeed News reports.

While the footage is not considered conclusive, BuzzFeed writes that Wednesday's presentation was the "most comprehensive" to date when it comes to showing that the extremist group "came prepared for violence" ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and "stashed firearms just outside of Washington, D.C., that they could easily access." The footage does not include any images of actual guns.

Before the disclosure of the surveillance video, the government "had shared little evidence other than text messages that referenced" the alleged strategy, BuzzFeed notes. While dozens of rioters have been charged with assaulting police officers during the riot, most of the incidents do not appear to involve advanced planning; the government's case against the Oath Keepers is one of the few that specifically focuses on that notion.

The man captured on video was Kenneth Harrelson. His lawyer Nina Ginsburg dismissed the idea that the footage "was proof of anything other than that Harrelson had luggage at the Comfort Inn," BuzzFeed reports. Read more at BuzzFeed News. Tim O'Donnell

4:52 p.m.

ABC News is getting a new president, and she'll make history in the role.

Kimberly Godwin on Wednesday was named the new president of ABC News, and she's set to become the first Black person to ever lead a U.S. broadcast network's newsroom, CNN reports.

Godwin now serves as executive vice president at CBS News, and she'll be succeeding current ABC News president James Goldston, who previously stepped down after seven years. Rashida Jones last year made history when she was announced as the new president of MSNBC, becoming the first Black woman to lead one of the three major cable news networks, The New York Times notes. "Every past president of ABC News has been a white man," according to CNN.

Disney General Entertainment Content chair Peter Rice announced Godwin's hiring on Wednesday, praising her "unique experiences, strengths and strategic vision," while Godwin said she's "honored to take on this stewardship and excited for what we will achieve together." The Times noted this was one of a number of recent significant changes at major news networks, with CBS News' president also expected to depart and CNN president Jeff Zucker is planning to leave his role at the end of the year. Brendan Morrow

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